I miss the simplicity of grilling and certainly no friends are calling to ask me to come over to a BBQ in the arctic cold lately. Naturally grill equipment gets wintered-in under a tarp or sits in the shed and makes an appearance again when the snow has melted away and the rainy April had its turn.
The reason I’m bringing it up is because I miss the simplicity of grilling. Yes I know we’re in the midst of winter and guess what I found a solution - I'm firing up my grill pan at home.
What’s a grill pan?
A grill pan has ridges across the cooking surface that simulates grilling. It’s comparable to outdoor grilling and it adds some simplicity to the overall cooking process. Certainly the grill marks will remind you of the BBQ. Compared with a regular skillet, I find that less oil has to be applied in a grill pan since the food does not stick to the bottom of the pan as much because of its grooved surface. Usually an outdoor grill gives a light smoky flavor to food because of the fat dripping which flares up and smoke the food, naturally.
Let’s get cooking
I love making grilled peppers, broccoli rabe, onions, even lettuce like escarole and halved hearts of romaine find their way into my grill pan. Before the vegetables hit my grill pan, a simple toss in olive oil, sea salt, pepper from the mill and herbs lubricate the vegetables sufficiently. Sturdy vegetables such as fennel and potatoes are best marked-off in the pan quickly, and finished cooking on a tray in the oven so they don’t get burned in the grill pan before they’re cooked through. Once the vegetables are grilled, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of sea salt and a dousing of extra virgin olive oil is just enough to make them taste perfect.
What else is good for your grill pan
Another food for the grill pan is of course grilled cheese, which gets that crunchy, crusty, seductive Panini-like flavor with the help of this pan. The oozing cheese drips down on the side of the sandwich and gets crusty -- so addictive. My grill pan does meat and fish cookery justice and it performs just fine. One fact I love is that I can baste my protein pieces with minced shallots and chopped thyme that are melted next to it – I could not do that on the outdoor grill. In addition heat adjustments can be refined rather precisely compared to the outdoor grill, so a thick piece of meat has plenty of time to cook to the desired doneness.
Basic Grilled Vegetables
(recipe yields four side portions)
3 pounds vegetables such as onions, zucchini, peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon thyme, chopped
sea salt, to taste
black pepper from the mill, to taste
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1. Rinse vegetables with water and dry with a kitchen paper towel.
2. If applicable, remove skin and stems from vegetables.
3. Slice vegetables into 1/2-inch thick pieces.
4. In a bowl combine vegetable oil, thyme, pepper and salt, and toss to coat the vegetables
5. Heat grill pan
6. With kitchen tongs arrange vegetables flat next to each other and cook for 3 minutes on one side. Turn vegetables and cook for another 3 minutes
7. In a bowl, toss vegetables with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and sea salt.
Chef’s Note: I grill in coated non-stick grill pans and cast iron pans that perform better - it made more accurate grill marks which translate into more flavor.